Monday, June 01, 2009

Rawness Rivera

My yearn for rawness comes in waves. Kinda like this: GUNGHO! Settle back, but more raw than before. GUNGHO! Settle back with more raw tricks up my sleeve, and on.

I'm kinda gungho again. I picked up Brendan Brazier's book Thrive and it fired me up. Brendan is a triathlete and ultra marathoner (Canada's champ) and he's been a vegan for 17 years. As he's experimented with his performance levels over those years, he's gone primarily raw especially while training. What I like about his book is that he speaks in terms of food strictly as optimal fuel for optimal performance whether as a top athlete or as a busy, regular person. I like that his approach is not from an animal-rights come from. To prevent animal suffering is a huge reason why I don't eat them and there are many more books that address this side of veganism, but a non vegan can easily emotionally justify why they eat meat. It's hard to argue with Brendan's performance & energy-based experiments concluding that whole vegan food, primarly raw, is the best fuel for you. It's hard to argue when the guy has won ultra marathons. WON! The main theories are that ANY processed foods (vegan included) are a stress on your system, and that raw foods and the enzymes in them rejuvenate cells and tissue at a faster rate allowing an athlete to recover quicker than a non raw vegan. Recovery is as important as full-tilt training. Raw foodies talk all the time about the power of the enzyme, the anti-cancer properties, the spark of energy they provide, but I love reading about it from a pure performance perspective. Brazier is non judgmental in his writing, but you can tell that he is anal about his own diet -- just like any top athlete would be about a successful regiment.

I think the best advice he gives though is to simply add more fruits and raw vegetables to the preexisting diet. He optimistically believes adding raw fruits and veggies will start to edge out the shit. I'm with him 100% on that.

How'd I get off on a Brendan Brazier tangent . . .? Oh, yea, he's got me gungho! I've been playing with raw recipes again, and I took a class at reportedly (reported correctly) the best raw restaurant in LA, Cru. The class was Italian Comfort Food. YUM! On the demo menu was lasagna, caesar salad (though historically Mexican, not Italian), Nutella figs and tiramisu. Uh, sick!! Everything was pretty fantastic, but I gotta say the Nutella Figs were a mouth explosion, y'know, in a sophisticated kind of way. My friend Emilie has written glorious and eloquent novella-style posts dedicated to the fig, but I wasn't a believer until these came into my life:
These are dried white figs smeared with the raw vegan nutella (basically soaked hazelnuts, raw cacao powder, agave and coconut oil). The ones in the back are topped with the mascarpone cream left over from the raw tiramisu I made. I want to marry these.

You don't just whip up raw food -- other than a salad or opening a banana, I mean. But to make raw crackers or bread or "entrees" or desserts one needs to plan days in advance. It's crazy. Soaking nuts for a day, dehydrated for two . . .When I fall into the flow of the method, it becomes meditative. The appreciation of food intensifies. (Though sometimes you just want to scarf down some toast over your sink, I realize.) Here are some pictures of my recent raw food gunghoness:

This is a creamy mushroom soup. I learned this recipe when I took a course last year over at Leaf, another great LA raw spot. I added fresh tarragon and chopped veggies. I went on a RAWvolution recipe rampage. Starting with Coconut-Carob Haystacks, which are fantastic. You keep them in the freezer and they taste like candy. I've been trying to wean the girls off of refined sugar, or at the very least make them more conscientious of how much is going in their mouth. Puberty and refined sugar are a bitch of a combo. Maya is totally receptive, but Mina? She can talk the talk, but the walk would be a beeline to the candy shop if it was all left up to her. She's Papi's girl. Anyway, I'm planting seeds, godamnit! Or that's what I tell myself. Mina does love these though and she doesn't like a lot of the raw stuff.Then I made RAWvolution's "Famous Onion Bread." These are almost all onion mixed with ground sunflower seeds, flax meal and raw soy sauce. They took 36 HOURS TO DEHYDRATE. Damn, but they are pretty great.Then I made the "Mock Tuna Salad" to go with the bread.The flavor in concentrated raw foods is so intense. You don't really need a lot to feel satisfied especially when balanced out with a some leafy greens. I don't think we are used to the strong flavors that occur naturally in foods because most of the flavors in a standard diet are processed out and added back in. The processing leaves food more devoid of nutrition and we end up eating much more than we had intended because our body is trying to fill itself with nutrients even when we're full. We beat ourselves up for eating too much when really your body is just trying to fill nutritional blanks. This is an important point for me too because prepared raw food is far from cheap. Holy. But I figure it lasts longer because I'll eat less of it. And I can't justify enough spending a big chunk of my money on nutritious food.

Whoa, did that sound all instructional? All robotic and ideal? Darn you, Brendan Brazier!

Mainly, my friends, I just wanted to tell you: Peace, Love and Leafy Greens.


Michael B. said...

The raw thing is very intriguing to me.
We're taking baby steps, in that, we're starting most mornings with green smoothies. (But we have a slice of toast too.) We also try to snack on raw fruits and veg. What no-cookbook would you recommend for a total noob?

What's Mina Wearing Today said...

Hi Michael! Baby steps are smart. Adding the raw stuff is great even with a yummy toast side.

To be honest, I wouldn't get a no-cookbook just yet. Until the raw bug is biting hard, I'd just keep uping your raw veggie, raw seed & fruit intake. You could start adding more nutrient rich stuff to your smoothies like flax meal (just ground seeds in a coffee grinder) Maybe experiement with store-bought raw desserts and crackers from your health food store. The Lydia's Organics Luna Nori crackers ( are crazy good. Mash some avocado on those along with a big ol salad (with seeds and sea veggies, dulse flakes) and that's as good a raw meal as any, I think. Many of the no-cookbooks have a lot of dehydrating going on and last year I invested in a dehydrator. I love it! And I try to use it a lot, but I think that investment can wait until you've crossed way into the dark side. Or the light side.

Email me if you want the Coconut-Carob Haystack recipe: That's easy, though the ingredients, not cheap.

And here's a recipe for my pretty sick almond shake. Mina calls it the graham cracker shake:

(oops, I'm still signed in as What's Mina Wearning . ..)

Michael B. said...

Thanks for the tips! I did check out a few books from the library, got completely overwhelmed by the 'tools' list and just kinda stalled out there. Your idea about purchasing premade products is brilliant, I'm headed to Whole Foods today to pick up my CSA share, I think I'll head over to their raw section and see what I can find! Thanks again!

My Year Without said...

Very cool blog. Love the picture of you and your Loops. That rocks.

Great explanation for why going vegan is important. I've always looked at my vegetarian diet as one step away from animal suffering, but when I read about the giant benefits of fruits and veggies, it reinforces why I am a believer in such diets. That's so cool.

I'm sure you've already thought of this, but having a ton of natural, sweet alternatives can make the transition for someone going sugar-free much easier. Trying to get kids to eat differently must be trying. Sounds like you are ambitious enough to make it happen, though!

Your recipes, esp. the coconut haystacks just made my belly growl.

madness rivera said...

Hey Michael, let me know how it goes.

Hi My Year Without, thanks for the comment! I personally think refined sugar is the devil (which I'm thinking you do too from your cool blog). Relatively, we don't eat a lot, but that makes us sensitive to it. My younger girl is not a vegan and would eat a lot of candy if she was allowed. Sigh. My older is a vegan and discovering the lovely world of vegan baking, but we're finding that she's pretty sensitive to the evaporated cane juice too. I had to stop baking almost entirely because the goods were driving me mad. So, she's going to experiment with baking with alternatives. She made some yummy granola-y bars with brown rice syrup, which I love to work with.

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Marigoldie said...

The onion bread & mock tuna salad are doing it for me. I crave the savory, which always stalls my raw plans. I do eat a lot of raw anyway though. I live on carrots, nuts and avocados.

Anonymous said...

Holy cow. I can't wait to catch up. I want to hear all about CRU, and BTW, I love the plate that the haystacks are sitting on. Inspiring. Also, I can vouch that they rock. I was the lucky neighbor taster.

Looking forward to a cup of tea...

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